How Imenhotep Could Have Made Concrete to Build the Great Pyramid at Giza
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How Imenhotep Could Have Made Concrete to Build the Great Pyramid at Giza

How Imenhotep could have used concrete to build the great pyramid at Giza overlooking the Nile River.

We may call them ancient Egyptians because they lived thousands of years ago, and may even call them primitives because they do not possess the technologies we have today. However, the ancient Egyptians were not fools, and one of the things they possessed was a working knowledge of chemistry. This is best exemplified by the architect, Imenhotep the builder of the great pyramid at Giza. A very controversial theory in archaeology is that the Egyptians under the direction of Imenhotep using a form of concrete being made by mixing some chemicals together with clay and limestone.

The key ingredient in their concrete was sodium hydroxide that was made by combining natron, sodium carbonate, with quicklime, calcium oxide. A mixture of these two solutions produced a solid limestone, calcium carbonate by precipitation leaving behind a solution of sodium hydroxide commonly called lye.

A strong solution of lye could be used to produce the other chemical needed for making the activator solution for the Egyptian version of concrete. This other chemical is sodium silicate that can be produced by reacting fine sand with sodium hydroxide. And even better reaction is caused by reacting sodium hydroxide with diatomaceous earth, the fossilized skeletons of diatoms.

Diatoms are one celled plants that live in water having a skeleton made of silica taking the form of Opal. There are plenty of diatoms that are found in the waters of the Nile, and the mud at the bottom of the river.

It takes a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium silicate solutions combined with a pozzolan material to make an extremely strong cement pit is an analog of granite. It is mixed with some form of aggregate to produce concrete. The pyramid builders of ancient Egypt used a soft limestone that contained a relatively high quantity of clay and many fossils as an aggregate. The product they produce is virtually impossible to distinguish from natural rock other than by subjecting it to a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR).

Specimens of rock from the pyramids have been subjected to NMR tests at Rutgers University in New Jersey with positive results indicating they could be made from this form of concrete that are today known as geopolymers.

It was through the back engineering efforts of a chemical engineer in France named Joseph Davidovits in the 1980s the rediscovered this ancient technology, and turned it into a wonder material for the 21st century. After several months of trying the author has succeeded in producing geopolymers himself.

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Comments (2)

Fascinating stuff--of course! (I've provided a link to another area of egyptian technology also quite interesting!)

Excellent and informative research. I believed that the Roman were the first to invent concrete from Pozzolana. However I am not sure now, who was the first.....Thanks Sir